Prescription drug abuse is being fueled by easy access to pharmaceuticals on the Internet, often facilitated by shady doctors and pharmacies, CNN reported May 21.
Rusty Payne, a spokesman for the Drug Enforcement Administration, said pharmaceutical abuse "is one of the biggest drug problems we are dealing with. "The Internet is the biggest culprit," Payne said.
"These pharmacy people that are doing this and these doctors that are doing this, they don't give a dadgummit about people. It's just the almighty dollar; that's all it is," said one Wichita, Kansas women whose husband died from an overdose of the muscle relaxant Soma, which he bought online without ever visiting a doctor.
CNN reporters were able to easily buy the antidepressants Prozac and Elavil online by filling out a health survey and providing a credit-card number, even though an e-mail from the linepharmacy.com site said that "all orders made are still subjected to Doctor's evaluation." The drugs arrived with a doctor's name and a pharmacy name on the label, but the reporter never spoke to a doctor.
In another example, a women who tried to commit suicide with drugs bought online received a prescription for Soma written by a doctor on Long Island, Kareem Tannous, who she had never met. The doctor, who runs three health clinics, refused to answer questions about the prescription, as did workers at Roots Pharmacy in American Fork, Utah, which filled the prescription.
The DEA says that investigations of Internet pharmacies yielded $39 million in cash and other assets last year, up from $11 million in 2004.
Carmen Catizone, the executive director of the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy, likened illicit online pharmacies to drug dealers but said Congress has been reluctant to beef up enforcement. "'Show us the dead bodies,'" has been the typical response from lawmakers, said Catizone, "and if that was me or my family, that's a pretty sad statement for our legislators to give."